Sweater numbers are synonymous with players. Most hockey fans can instantly tell you a great player by the number they wear on their back. There are many different stories about how players became associated with the famous numbers. Many odd and interesting facts surround these numbers as well. As we count down the start of the 2023-24 NHL season, we take a look at the story behind the numbers. Today we continue with sweater number 25. Keep up to date with the series everyday until the start of the 2023-24 NHL season.
Behind the Sweater Number: 25
The First 25s
According to Hockey Reference, 473 players have worn sweater number 25 since since jersey records were kept in the 1950-51 season. However, it does not list any players before then that may have taken the number. Hockey Reference lists three players in the 1950-51 season. Pete Horeck of the Boston Bruins had the most successful campaign of any of the three players that season. Horeck wore the number 25 in 66 games and got 10 goals. However, he would switch to 11 with the Chicago Black Hawks the next season.
Three Toronto Maple Leafs players would take the number in 1951-52 season. Bob cwould have sweater number 25 for 24 games during that campaign. He’d get five goals and eight points. Solinger would keep the number until the 1955 games, but would switch over. He’d alternate between 25 and 21. The Star City, Saskatchewan native would take 20 for the Detroit Red Wings.
There are always a number of players that wore sweater number 25 that would go onto have decent to good careers. However, these were with other numbers. Vancouver Canucks defencemen Kevin Bieksa and Doug Lidster started their careers off as a 25. Derick Brassard wore sweater number 25 with the Florida Panthers for 2018-19. Daniel Cleary wore the number for a season with the Blackhawks. William Karlsson wore the number for two seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Nino Niederreiter and Devon Toews started off their careers with the New York Islanders in 25. Trailblazer Willie O’Ree ended his NHL career with 25 after wearing 18 and 22 today. Chris Pronger wore the number for an extended cameo with the Anaheim Ducks.
Our pick for the best to wear sweater number 25 is Joe Nieuwendyk. The former Cornell man won the Calder Trophy with the Calgary Flames in 1988 and was a three-time Stanley Cup winner. Nieuwendyk racked up 564 goals and 562 assists for his career. The Oshawa, Ontario native also got a Conn Smythe Trophy and a King Clancy Trophy for his cabinet.
He got 51 goals twice early in his career, but became a well-rounded player in stops in Dallas and New Jersey. Nieuwendyk was eventually traded to Dallas, but it would get Calgary another club icon. Jarome Iginla would come back as part of the deal and etch himself into Calgary Flames lore. Nieuwendyk still has such a hold on the club that Jacob Markstrom asked Nieuwendyk for permission to use 25, which he granted.
Other 25s and the Future
Dave Andreychuk, Vincent Damphousse and Jacques Lemaire each could make cases to be the best to wear sweater number 25. Andreychuk is one of the greatest scoring left wingers in the league. Damphousse played in nearly 1,400 games and nearly picked up 500 career goals. Lemaire is a Hall of Famer and won eight Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens. He’d also become a head coach and bring his defensive acumen to the behind the bench.
Hal Gill wore the number for a few seasons with Boston and Toronto. Viktor Kozlov wore 25 for most of his career. Tough guys Darren McCarty and Chris Neil wore the number for many seasons. Thomas Steen and Kevin Stevens also donned the digits.
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